Winter Peace

By Diane

Disclaimer: Paramount owns the ship and these characters. No copyright infringement is intended.

Taking a much needed break in the only quiet corner of Voyager's latest holodeck programme, Kathryn Janeway settled comfortably into a large chair, letting its soft, plush cushions envelope her.

She tucked her legs and feet securely beneath her, resting one elbow on the arm of the chair, and cradled a mug of steaming cocoa between her hands. The warmth from the mug suffused her body, adding to the feeling of contentment that had been slowly building for the past couple of days.

Lifting the mug to her lips, she closed her eyes and took a warm, welcome sip, savouring it before swallowing. Placing it on the occasional table to her left, she sighed in pleasure, then allowed her head to rest on the back of the chair as she snuggled deeper into the cushions.

She closed her eyes once more, reminding herself this was only a brief break, and spoke to the figure sitting to her left.

"Aren't you going to join us Tuvok?"

"I do not see the need for these frivolous activities Captain, as you are well aware. Since you requested my presence, I am here, but I see no need to further participate."

Kathryn slowly opened one eye, just enough to see him, and grinned in his direction. "Even if you do think that... I'm glad you're here." Soon the grin turned to a knowing smile as Tuvok nodded in quiet acknowledgement.

Lifting her head from its reclined position, she opened her eyes fully to watch the festivities taking place before her. She had spent the past hour helping the crew in this holodeck simulation, and now, just for a few moments, she felt like sitting back and watching.

Her eyes wandered across the room, an exact replica of the inside of a traditional log cabin from Earth's past. Or so Tom had assured her. He had created the basics of this programme for their Christmas celebrations, but left the actual decorating in the hands of the crew, who at this very moment, were emptying boxes that were filled to brimming with holographic decorations.

And she had to admit, that had been a very good idea. The room was alive with a quiet buzz, those not on duty shifts right now, running backwards and forwards with handfuls of holly and ivy, garlands and wreaths. Some were standing on chairs, arms stretched to the ceiling, calling to see if this or that was straight, shouts of higher and lower being thrown across the room.

Others were hanging mistletoe at strategic points throughout the cabin, mischievous gleams lighting their eyes, while other busy hands hung greenery along the wooden rail of the banister that climbed to the next floor, or strung garlands sprinkled with red berries across the mantelpiece that surrounded the massive log fire.

Kathryn's eyes fell on the log fire, only a short distance from her, the orange glow of the crackling flames reflecting in her blue eyes. A combination of its heat, and the past hours activities, were beginning to turn her cheeks a delicate shade of pink.

Just before the flames steady movement could fully hypnotise her, Lieutenant Ayala and Ensign Nicoletti passed, waving and smiling to her, before hurriedly moving back into the hub of activity, not wanting to miss anything. The three of them had spent the past thirty minutes trying to figure out the antiquated electrical system Tom had efficiently programmed the cabin with. They had all simultaneously let out whoops of joy when they had finally figured it out. It was also then she decided she had truly earned a break.

Kathryn's eyes began to roam the room once more, and soon settled on the far end, where to her, the most important part of Christmas decorating was taking place. That of the Christmas tree. She was just about to join them once more, when she paused, deciding to take just a few more moments to quietly watch her crew, and friends, as they enjoyed themselves.

Most of Voyager's senior officers were gathered around the tree, as well as Neelix, and Samantha and Naomi Wildman. They were busy searching through piles of boxes, picking out then admiring small decorations intended for the tree, some beautiful and delicate, and others, going by their cries of laughter, meant as novelties to amuse and entertain.

She watched on with unhidden amusement as Tom and Harry tried to explain to Seven the meaning of this tradition, Tom's hands wildly gesticulating, and could clearly hear in her mind, Seven's voice saying it was an 'irrelevant and pointless activity.' She chuckled to herself, realising that Seven still voiced that opinion even after 3 years aboard Voyager.

And she couldn't help but laugh out loud as she noted Seven's look of disgust when B'Elanna passed her a very large string of coloured tree lights, held in disarray by a thousand tangles and knots. Kathryn's outburst earned her a sideways look from Seven, as well as a raised eyebrow from Tuvok, who clearly had no idea what was so amusing. She realised then that Tom had designed everything to be traditional. It reminded her of the Christmas' she, her sister and her family once shared.

Watching intently as they began to work together, Kathryn couldn't help but notice the excitement on Naomi's face, as one thing after another was removed from the boxes. She jumped about from one person to the other, eagerly showing them her findings. Suddenly she let out a squeal as Neelix surprised her with an early present. Her very own little Flotter ornament to hang on the Christmas tree.

Naomi called to Kathryn, holding the ornament high in the air, and started to move towards the Captain to show her. But in her excitement, Naomi suddenly stumbled and fell backwards...directly into the path of the Christmas tree. Crying out in surprise, she landed in the thick green branches then fell to the floor with a thud.

The tree shook fiercely from the sudden impact, and as Samantha and several others rushed to Naomi's side, it began to teeter on its trunk, leaning perilously to one side. As the prickly pine needles drifted to the floor and the branches sprung back to their original position, Kathryn's eyes widened, watching events unfold as though in slow motion. With a final sway, the Christmas tree started its journey to the cabin's floor.

But at the last possible moment, a pair of large, tanned hands interrupted its fall, reaching from behind to grasp at its branches. The Christmas tree halted midway, saved from a disastrous ending on the wooden floorboards. The owner of the hands being hidden from view, it appeared as though the tree began to straighten of its own accord.

Collective sighs could be heard throughout the room, everyone having frozen and watched with open eyes as they had realised what was happening. When they were sure the tree was out of danger, the crew returned to their earlier activities, the quiet lull of conversation beginning once more.

Turning to Tuvok she said, "That was a little close for comfort," only to be answered with a simple, "Indeed."

By the time she turned back, they had already begun to straighten the tree, a mumbling Doctor being volunteered to crawl underneath to secure it. She watched as the familiar hands held it tightly, then tentatively released the branches, testing to see if it could stand on its own.

Seeing it was safe, she released a breath she hadn't realised she had been holding, shook her head and grinned at the close call.

Wanting another sip of her hot cocoa, she reached for the mug. But on hearing the sudden roars of unrestrained laughter and people calling for her from across the room, she quickly looked up and over to her senior staff.

The Doctor had retreated from beneath the tree, and was now standing cloaked in green, spiky pine needles. The holographic clothes he had chosen for the occasion appeared to attract the needles, and the little hair he had, seemed to have been replaced by the pines, standing out every which way imaginable.

B'Elanna and Tom were doubled over in laughter, clinging to one another for support, tears streaming down their faces. While Neelix and Naomi clutched their sides she saw Harry and Samantha try to be a little more subtle, but only managing for the briefest of nanoseconds. And she was sure that was the hint of a smirk beginning to show on Sevens face. She couldn't blame them. She herself couldn't hold back a cry of laughter at the annoyed and indignant look that spread across the Doctor's face.

Within seconds, the owner of those hands popped his head around the tree, curious to know what all the commotion was about. On seeing the Doctor's predicament, he let out a loud guffaw, sending her and the others into hysterics once more.

With a harrumph and a toss of his head, the Doctor strode to the other end of the room, but not before throwing a glare in Kathryn's direction. He began shaking his arms, legs and head in a futile attempt to remove the needles. Eyes sparkling with merriment, she laughed again, and returned her gaze to the others.

But before Kathryn could see what they were doing now, her eyes fell on the man who had been hidden from view not so long ago. He was standing by the tree, hands holding something that she couldn't quite make out, watching her intently. Kathryn's eyes moved up his body, taking in the casual clothes he wore, and finally met his gaze.

Though she had decided it was time to rejoin them, her body suddenly refused to move. He was watching her the way he usually did when he thought she wasn't aware of it. But tonight, he watched her openly, not bothering that she, and everyone else who looked over, would notice.

Kathryn returned his gaze, now oblivious to everything and everyone else on the holodeck. And she realised, that if this had happened before, she would probably have turned away. But not tonight, tonight she was unable to look away.

He finally dropped his eyes from hers and turned to B'Elanna, quickly saying something. Kathryn saw B'Elanna nod in reply, and watched with growing anticipation as he left the others and moved towards her. He moved slowly and deliberately, and with confidence, quickly closing the gap between them.

Within seconds, he was standing before her, smiling down as she sat in the chair. Kathryn looked up, returning his smile with a dazzling one of her own, unable to think of anything to say for the moment. But before long, he broke the silence.

"Care to help me hang these by the fireplace Kathryn?" he asked, nodding to the beautiful velvet stockings he still held in his hands.

"I'd love to," she replied, moving to get out of the chair. Before she could, he put both stockings in one hand, and held his left hand out in front her. Smiling, she placed one hand in his and allowed him to help her up.

Once she was safely on her feet, standing chest to chest with him, she waited for him to release her hand. But he didn't. Instead he gave it a gentle squeeze, and tightened his hold, keeping her hand securely entwined with his. They stood there for seconds, maybe minutes, unaware of the figure that now stood to their side.

But a brief cough brought them out of the reverie they had fallen into. Turning round, Kathryn saw Tuvok had risen to his feet, and was looking slightly uncomfortable.

"If you will excuse me, I believe it is time I retired to my quarters."

"Goodnight Tuvok, and thank you for coming, it means a lot to me. Merry Christmas," Kathryn said, smiling while tilting her head to the side.

"Goodnight Captain, Commander, and..Merry Christmas" Tuvok said as he bade goodbye to his senior officers.

Kathryn watched him head for the holodeck doors, trying to evade the crewmembers still running about, then turned her attention back to Chakotay. He was still watching her, as though he hadn't even heard Tuvok speak, or see him leave.

"Well, shall we?" she suggested, dragging her eyes from the dark pools that watched her so intently.

When he nodded, they walked together to the fireplace, and Chakotay finally dropped her hand from his. Passing her one of the stockings he said, "Here you go, they're all ready to hang."

She took one of the deep maroon stockings from his outstretched hand, and they turned and hung them side-by-side from the mantelpiece. When they were securely attached, she turned to him again and said, "This is a lovely tradition isn't it?"

"Yes, though some of it is pretty new to me," he laughed. The smile slowly disappeared and he looked at the floor before continuing. "But, I think this would be a nice tradition to carry on," and looked up hopefully just before he finished.

"Yes, I think the crew would like to keep this programme for next year. That is, if we aren't home by then," she added with a twinkle in her eye.

Chakotay hesitated before saying, "I wasn't talking about the programme Kathryn."

She watched his face carefully, that open expression still evident, and waited for him to continue.

"I meant, it would be a nice tradition for *us* to carry on," he corrected, "together."

When he had finished, she noticed that somehow they had drifted closer together. They were mere inches apart, and still moving closer, as if drawn together by an invisible piece of string. She watched as his head dropped slowly to hers, then closed her eyes, and let her feelings carry her through.

She felt his lips gently touch hers for the first time, his thumb tenderly stroking her cheek at the same time. But he pulled away all too soon, and looked into her eyes to try and gage her reaction.

She saw the apprehensive look in his eyes, but smiled, and hoarsely whispered, "I'd like that."

Relief flooded his face, and he leaned down and kissed her once more, this time on her forehead.

"Shall we rejoin the others?" he asked quietly.

"Yes, lets," she replied. They wrapped their arms around each other's waist, Kathryn leaning into his body, and they slowly walked over to rejoin their friends.

*Yes* Kathryn thought *there certainly was a feeling of magic and wonder during the Christmas season.*

The End

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